S0, exercising some poor judgment, I missed last month’s installment in my resolution to write about the 14 leadership traits each month. Last month – February – was Trait Number Two: Judgment. In hopes of catching up, I am offering six practices that – if honed to a skill – will absolutely improve your judgment.
One: Go and See for Judgment
OK, so I’m not fooling anyone into thinking that these six practices are original. They are right out of the KCOE Operational Excellence System playbook. Now that I’ve got that off of my conscience…
I recommend you go and see things. Remember that judgment is defined by many sources as, “the ability to make considered decisions.” The key word in that definition is “considered”. The implication is that there is a process that leads up to the decision. You can do that process by studying your belly button, or you can get up from that $700 “executive” chair that swivels 360 degrees (but, we only use about 90 degrees of it…hmmm…), and go and see. The going part means going to where the facts are that you need to make a decision. In the digital age, some might interpret that as “Googling”. Googling may help you decide where you go to see the facts, but please don’t stop at defaulting to your browser (even if it is the coolest app on your phone). Get up, GO and see. The seeing part can be tricky. Lots of things occlude our vision, our ability to see facts. Practice seeing facts. Practice setting aside your opinions and assumptions and simply SEE.
Two: Get the Facts for Judgment
This may seem redundant to point one, but it isn’t. Going to see the facts and getting them are two distinct things. If I am going to bake a cake, I can’t simply go and see the ingredients, I have to get them. The facts are your ingredients for employing the executive skill of judgment. You can’t bake your judgment cake without them. Let’s say you are going to bake a cake that requires fresh strawberries. When you go and see the strawberries, you realize there are some that are better than others. You naturally choose the best ones for your cake. Likewise, you need to evaluate the facts that you are seeing and choose which ones are the best. You would inspect a strawberry by picking it up and turning it over, looking at it closely. That is what I mean by getting the facts.
Three: Grasp the Situation for Judgment
So, by now I hope you are seeing that this exercise that we call the Three Gs: Go+See, Get the Facts, and Grasp the Situation is not something that can be done quickly. There are ways to improve your ability to see (think: if I had a visualization that caused a process to tell me when and where a problem was occurring…), but even with those aids, the process takes time. This third piece requires some exercising of the gray matter (your reasoning ability: comprehension, business awareness, etc.). When you grasp something, no one can take it away from you. It becomes yours to use. That is the idea here: grasp the situation by evaluating the facts and now you are prepared to make a judgment, almost…
Four: Consider People for Judgment
There is a great saying in the Old Testament that goes, roughly, if it weren’t for the oxen, the barn would be clean. Applied, it is trying to show that if you want a clean barn, get rid of the oxen. But, if you get rid of the oxen, who will do all the work and why do you even need a barn?? Similarly, people – the people that we work with or for or who work for us, and, sadly, yes, even you – are not perfect. We expect them to be at times, but, really, have you created a process that enables them to succeed 100% of the time? So, what does this have to do with judgment? As you get the facts and grasp the situation, remember that the people involved are simply human. They have cultural norms in behavior and mindsets and even in values, just like you do. They understand only what you’ve enabled them to understand. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t intelligent and ABLE to understand, only that we tend to assume (there it is again…) that people know more than they really do.
Five: Passion for Judgment
The root of the word “passion” is pas- which is related to the Latin pati- which mean suffering. When you are passionate about something, you are willing to suffer for it. I was at the Penn State versus Ohio State football game a few years ago at Penn State. Some poor soul had decided to show those 100,000 raving Penn State fans that he was a dyed-in-the-wool Buckeye. So, he wore red and white from head to toe and sat right in the middle of the Penn State season ticket section. Heckled from the moment he sat down to the time he left, his passion for the Buckeyes never wavered. When they scored he leapt to his feet and screamed at the top of his lungs, only to be met with boos and catcalls and the occasional piece of half-eaten food tossed his way. When you are making a judgment, are you willing to suffer the consequences of your decision, or is that fear of criticism influencing the way you decide?
Six: Patience for Judgment
Guess where this word comes from? Correct: the same Latin root, pati- for suffering (as opposed to patio which is for relaxing). Things take time. Good, sound, considered decisions take time. The OE System says take the time to decide then act swiftly, with confidence. Some situations may require snap judgments. I liken this to the muscle memory developed when acquiring a new skill or new technique in a sport. At first, the technique – let’s use something simple like flipping an egg in the frying pan – seems difficult. The pan is clunky and your arm and wrist resist the movement. But, after practicing it a hundred times and having some success and some failure, it becomes like riding your bike: natural and easy. Similarly, the more you take the time and use these six practices over and over, the easier and more natural they become. Be patient as you learn – suffer to get it right by slowing down. Then, when the stuff hits the rotating blades and you must make a snap judgment, the muscle memory will kick in.
Summing it Up: Three Gs and Three Ps for Better Judgment
We tell folks that these six practices are the keys to balancing the human with the operational which drives increases in mutual trust and respect. I guarantee that if you practice these – hopefully under the tutelage of a mentor or coach – you will improve your judgment radically.
If you have comments, I’d love to hear them. Tell me about how these practices have paid off in your experience, or tell me I’m off my rocker…that’s your judgment.